This year marks the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District on April 29, 1969. One of the city’s oldest and still largest historic districts, it’s a unique treasure trove of rich history, pioneering culture, and charming architecture. GVSHP will be spending 2019 marking this anniversary with events, lectures, and new interactive online resources, including a celebration and district-wide weekend-long “Open House” starting on Saturday, April 13th in Washington Square. This is the first in a series of posts about the unique qualities of the Greenwich Village Historic District marking its golden anniversary.
The Greenwich Village Historic District literally oozes with charm; so much so, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a top-10 list. But with no insult to sites not included, here is one run at the 10 most charming sites you’ll find in this extraordinarily quaint historic quarter–from good-old classics like the famous stretch of brick rowhouses on Washington Square North to more quirky findings like the “Goodnight Moon” house.
Check out the list!
Earlier this month, GVSHP launched its East Village Preservation effort, releasing its new website “East Village Building Blocks,” which contains historic information and images for every one of the neighborhood’s 2,200 buildings. Of course, any neighborhood spanning five centuries of history and nearly 100 blocks will reveal some surprises when you scratch the surface. But the East Village’s story has some unique and unexpected twists and turns which are brought to light by this new online tool. From the birthplace of the shag haircut to four former homes of Allen Ginsberg to the first federally-subsidized public housing project in America, here are just a few of those you’ll encounter.
All this and more
The area in the 1840s, via Wiki Commons
One of New York City’s most charming and distinctive corners celebrates its 50th anniversary as a landmark district this coming week. The St. Mark’s Historic District, designated January 14, 1969, contains fewer than 40 buildings on parts of just three blocks. But this extraordinary East Village enclave contains several notable superlatives, including Manhattan’s oldest house still in use as a residence, New York’s oldest site of continuous religious worship, Manhattan’s only true east-west street, the remains of the last Dutch Governor of New Netherland, and the only “triangle” of houses attributed to celebrated 19th century architect James Renwick.
More secrets of the neighborhood
Straddling Greenwich Village and the East Village, the neighborhood south of Union Square between Fifth and Third Avenues was once a center of groundbreaking commercial innovations, radical leftist politics, and the artistic avant-garde. With the city’s recent decision to allow an upzoning for a “Tech Hub” on the neighborhood’s doorstep on 14th Street, there are concerns that the resilient and architecturally intact neighborhood may face irreversible change. While they’re still here, take a tour of some of the many sites of remarkable cultural history, nestled in this compact neighborhood just south of one of our city’s busiest hubs.
See the full list
Via Wiki Commons
New York City is full of hidden surprises that even the most dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker may not know about. One such example is the elusive “backhouse” or rear house. There are literally scores of these hidden structures throughout the older neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan like Greenwich Village and the East Village. But because they are generally invisible from the street, they’re typically virtually unknown to anyone other than their residents and immediate neighbors. But these oft-romanticized structures have a complicated and surprising history, one which belies their almost mythical place in the psyche of New Yorkers.
Get the scoop
As the old saying goes, you win some, you lose some. That’s particularly true in preservation, where sometimes in spite of the most heroic of efforts and compelling of cases, historic treasures succumb to the wrecking ball. GVSHP is frequently asked, “Which fight do you most regret losing; which building do you mourn the loss of most?” It often comes as a surprise that the answer, inevitably, is a parking garage — one which seemed to almost eerily peer into the future.
But the Tunnel Garage, at Broome and Thompson Streets, where the South Village meets Soho, was no ordinary parking garage. Built in 1922, it was a thing of extraordinary beauty, a sublime ode to the dawn of the automobile age and to the engineering marvel of its time which was the Holland Tunnel.
So, what happened?
Among the many delights included in this weekend’s Open House New York will be three iconic Greenwich Village buildings–a Gothic Revival church with many architectural firsts, a library that was originally a courthouse which heard the “Trial of the Century,” and a groundbreaking artists’ housing complex that was formerly home to Bell Telephone Labs and the site where color television was invented. These extraordinary landmarks span three centuries of American history, reflecting the evolution of our city’s spiritual, artistic, industrial, scientific, and civic life.
Learn more about their unique histories
, Thu, September 27, 2018
Southward view of Gay Street via Wiki Commons
Gay Street is one of the most charming and picturesque streets in Greenwich Village, an icon of the historic neighborhood’s anachronistic character. But the origins of its name are hotly debated, with the LGBT rights movement and abolitionism often cited as the source of its unusual nomenclature. And while the street certainly has strong connections to gay liberation and the African-American struggle for freedom, the history behind the name is a little murkier, and a little more complicated to unravel, than one might expect.
Get the story
, Thu, September 13, 2018
The Village is known as one of the oldest parts of New York City, where historic architecture can be found everywhere, and charming houses from a bygone era still stand. Here at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, a perennial question we’re asked is “which is the oldest house in the Village?” It’s a great question, with a complicated answer. Is it one of the two charming wooden houses? The “brick” house with connections to Paul Revere? The Merchant’s House Museum, Manhattan’s first individual landmark? The handsome Stuyvesant Street house built by Peter Stuyvesant’s great-grandson?
The answer might surprise you
Google Street View of Federal-style rowhouses on VanDam Street
It’s an often-overlooked enclave with the largest concentration of Federal and Greek Revival style houses in New York City. Its origins can be traced back to historical figures as esteemed as George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jacob Astor, but it’s just as deeply connected to Italian immigrants and radical 20th-century innovators. The most dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker will have trouble telling you if it’s in Greenwich Village, SoHo, or Hudson Square.
The tiny Charlton-King-VanDam neighborhood is, as its name would imply, located along charming Charlton, King, and VanDam Streets between Sixth Avenue and Varick Streets, with a little arm extending up the southernmost block of MacDougal Street just below Houston Street. It was only the fourth designated historic district in New York City when it was landmarked on August 16th, 1966, and for good reason.
Find out the full history